by R.H. Tex Williams
Anyone who has spent any time reading the Bible cannot help but be moved by the love and personal concern that God has for all of his creation! The amazing statement made by Jesus in Matthew 10:29,30 is evidence of God’s extensive love to birds as well as to mankind: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Though God is concerned for all of his creation, man is the focal point of his greatest love. The first mention of God’s love in the Bible is expressed in the song of Moses and Miriam following Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptian armies at the Red Sea. “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you redeemed” (Exodus 15:13).
The second time God’s love is mentioned in the Bible was when the Ten Commandments were given, and God is portrayed as punishing those who would worship graven images. But his statement “… showing love to a thousand generations of those that love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6) is evidence of his great love for all men. This statement is also a positive manifestation of where God’s love is really evident; that is, it is for those who return his love by keeping his commandments.
These statements do not mean, however, that God’s love is limited to only those who know him and who keep his commandments. His love is universal and his purpose is to let his love be known.
That is why he sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach against their sins. In spite of Jonah’s negative feelings, his preaching was successful. The people repented, and God’s delight in the results was evident. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). He explained why he was concerned about Nineveh: “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11). Note the expanse of God’s love to a people who did not know him, and even to the cattle as well.
Then, of course, Jonah finally verbally recognized God’s purpose in sending him to a foreign people to preach repentance. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity …” (Jonah 4:2). The universality of God’s love is emphatically expressed in the familiar passage of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
As God loves us, so are we to love as well. In Mark 12:28-31 we are made aware that the most important commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” The second most important commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the love that compels us to reach out to others as God’s love reaches out to us.
Let me illustrate this principle using an experience that I had as a missionary in Africa. I was preaching over a short-wave radio station that reached all of southern and central Africa. Due to the many requests, I sent out copies of the sermons to a wide audience.
One day I received a letter from a Zulu man, John Gomede, who lived in Zululand and who had picked up one of my printed sermons off of a dirt road. A truck had run over the sermon and he could not read all of it, but was able to read enough to feel he needed to know more. My address was still legible, and he asked me to come to his home and preach. I was glad to comply, having a vague idea of where he lived, and I finally found his home. I was not welcomed by the animistic people who lived in that area, and they threw rocks at my car when I came to John’s home.
Over a period of time John and his family were converted, but he suffered the consequences of his faith. His neighbors killed his chickens and goats and pulled up the corn, pumpkins, etc., that grew in his garden. I suggested that he move from such a hostile environment, but he loved his kinsmen and neighbors, and so he endured and preached. Today, because of his love, there are now 14 congregations of the Lord’s church in his immediate and surrounding areas.
John’s love was compelled by God’s love … and it produced fruit. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7,8). So can it be with us if we love as God loves.
R.H. Tex Williams is director of World Bible School, an outreach program of evangelism by churches of Christ. Thanks to The Voice of Truth International, Vol 41, pages 72-73.
by R.H. Tex Williams